We take a break from this neverending coaching search this evening to talk about a great event here in the Ville, the McDonalds All American Game. Like Sanjaya from American Idol, the McDonalds game is always highly anticipated, often a little odd and usually full of excitement. It is the last real chance to see the best players in America before they get to college and their various media relations directors put them off limits from now until eternity. It is a kind of circus atmosphere, with future millionaires on the court, playing against the best of the best from throughout the country, all the while sleazy AAU coaches and street agents lurk in the background, looking for the right time to pounce….in short it is a great event, and Kentucky Sports Radio was there. Our ten observations…..
(1) The highlight of the game for the UK folks was of course the appearances by Patterson and Lucas. Patrick Patterson had a solid game, taking very seriously his battle with Michael Beasley and getting a number of rebounds and putbacks. You saw the strengths and limitations of Patterson’s game tonight as he hit the boards, played team basketball and made some good passes. You also saw that he was a step slow on defense against Beasley and he had a hard time matching up with his athleticism. Nevertheless, it was a successful game for Patterson and he received the loudest cheers (along with Lucas) from the pro-UK crowd.
I spent some time chatting with Patrick and his mother during the evening and spoke about his recruitment. He said that Coach David Hobbes had been in contact with him and told him he still should go to Kentucky. He said he would narrow his schools in a couple of days to three. His mother told me that Kentucky would likely be in those three but that really the question was who the next coach would be. She said Patrick could end up waiting until the end of the signing period until he was “assured what the status of everything would be” if necessary, but they hope to get settled very soon.
(2) Jai Lucas was as always, entertaining. He won over a lot of skeptical UK fans with his great point guard play and was the go-to player for the West when a calm point guard presence was needed. Jai is the most liked great player I have seen and the players on his team rally around him. He has their respect and all listen as he spends the game coaching on and off the floor. Lucas also had a great running floater over Patterson which then caused him to look at Patrick and say, “try and stop that.” Jai told me after the game that he guaranteed Patrick he would score on him and he did.
Lucas told me after the game that Tubby’s departure “changed everything and means he almost has to re-evaluate the entire process.” He will wait until Kentucky makes a coach before he makes a decision but admitted that he “had a couple of favorites” of the names he has been hearing. He said that he loves the state of Kentucky, the fan base and the crowd. But he said that the right coaching fit is important and that has to happen for him to commit. Lucas said he hasnt heard from Mitch Barnhart (and neither has Patterson) but that he was ok right now “just living life.”
Bottom line…..UK gets Donovan, in my view they get both. Dont get Donovan, no Patterson and maybe no Lucas.
(3) Jai’s dad John Lucas was once again epic. I am more entertained by John Lucas than should be allowed. He spends the entire game, in constant motion, yelling at anyone and everyone in the game. Even when Jai is not in, he is shouting at the other players, telling them where they should go and what they should do. He coaches from the fifth row with more intensity than anyone I have ever seen…..and he is one of the nicest people you will meet. HE said there was “no truth” to the rumor that he might have coached at UK under Tubby but that he will be “following all you computer people to see who Kentucky hires.” We computer people will be following you as well John.
(4) Len Elmore is really not attractive…..I mean really.
(5) So how about OJ Mayo? Kid shoots approximately 500 times, makes about 3 and nearly gets booed off the court in an all star game…..an unprecedented achievement. The fans were truly getting rowdy and frustrated at his selfish play. After the game he was MOBBED by fans in a way I have never seen…..but lucky for him, he had about four guys who were dressed as mobsters handling his every move. Classic OJ moment. While OJ is sitting signing for kids (which to his credit, he did for some time), a girl comes up, probably 18 years old, for an autograph. One of the mobsters sees her, and her dress (which was mildly risque) and says, “honey you know OJ worries about that stuff after the game.” The girl looks perplexed, takes her program and walks away. I laughed heartily.
(6) Nicest kids in the class by far…..Jai Lucas, Kevin Love and Nick Calathes. All humble and exactly what you would want in a player for your team. Love is special and will be a star.
(7) Speaking of stars, the halftime entertainment of Timbaland did not receive the star treatment he thought he would. After coming out to mild applause, Timbaland looked at the crowd and said, “Wheres the love?” The crowd looked back and said nothing, in part because they had no idea who this man was that was shouting at them. Timbaland began to “sing” his songs and literally NO ONE paid him any mind…..the McDonalds people got nervous and sent the only people who knew him in the building (the Womens All Star teams) onto the court……Timbaland then got into the girls team huddle and just rapped to them, ignoring the crowd……who then proceeded to act as if he wasnt there. What was left was a surreal scene where the players were dancing, Timba was rapping and the crowd was less moved than if Rob Bromley were giving a dissertation on economic theory. Timba finished his “act” walked off the court and said “thanks to my girls on the team and to you guys…..forget you.” It was great…..so I went up to get an interview and Timba’s people said “Timbaland dont do interviews” (my new catchphrase) so I asked Timba for a picture…..and he pointed a finger in the air and said, “take that Louisville.” That picture now becomes one of my ten favorites and will be on here soon (if I can help it).
(8) One star power moment…..got my picture with John Wooden….one of the cooler things ever. Truly a classy guy and spry at 95.
(9) If you saw the Johnny Flynn dunk, it was even more impressive under the goal he almost broke. Syracuse watch out….
(10) One player stood out for his badness…..Cole Aldrich who is going to Kansas. He looked like a guy who, when he got the ball, wanted it out of his hands before he embarrassed himself. Speaking of embarrassing….Gani Lawal got blocked by the rim on a dunk AND shot an air ball free throw. Quite the double threat……
(11) The East team was coached by the South Laurel coach. I wonder if they listened…..I mean heck, this guy once coached the GREAT Ty Proffit for goodness sake…..
(12) Unlike at the dunk contest, Nolan Smith got cheers. The other Duke guys got boos…..you gotta love Kentucky.
(13) Much scuttlebutt on press row about the Donovan to UK story reported on Monday night. Blames seems to be evenly split over the Cats Pause and the two tv stations….but the folks who didnt report it, really do take glee in the ones that did and their misfortune.
(14) Michael Beasley….in ten years we will find out that the MVP was correct and that he is the best player in this class.
(15) Finally, seeing this game up close was a real treat. These guys are so good that it is almost silly what they can do on the court. I have sat on the front row for an NBA game and it is the only comparison I can make to these guys in this environment. Plus, unlike an NBA game, both teams were REALLY TRYING to win. Lucas and Patterson (you will be happy to know) were two players who were into the game the most and the West team was imploring each other on the sidelines to do “whatever it takes to win the game.” It was fitting however that OJ missed the last shot…..the Mayo circus will be great to follow for the next few years and if it is crazy as the things I saw tonight (including a couple I cant write)…..well sign me up!
More to come today, including some new coaching scuttlebutt about another name on the radar screen. Check back in as the day progresses……